ABSTRACT

While most of the immigrants who came to the United States from the former Soviet Union have become conservative Republicans, the generation of so-called Russian-American writers has rejected the right-wing politics of their parents in favor of a more liberal position. However, few of these authors go as far as embracing “communism” or Soviet-style state socialism. An interesting exception to this rule is the writer and journalist Keith Gessen. Unlike the Russian liberals, who criticize the Putin regime as a relapse into Soviet-style totalitarianism, Gessen interprets Putinism as a symptomatic manifestation of global neoliberalism. Gessen’s 2018 novel A Terrible Country traces the protagonist’s (and Gessen’s own) political evolution from liberalism to neo-Marxism. The book also contains a fictional portrait of the prominent Russian poet and Marxist activist Kirill Medvedev. This article discusses Gessen’s portrayal of contemporary Russian society in the context of neo-Marxist theory. As it argues, even though the plot of the novel is situated in 2008, Gessen presents an indictment of the regimes of Putin and Trump by using his own bicultural Russian-American identity as a springboard for politically engaged fiction.

You do not currently have access to this content.